The Restaurant Comment Card Is Dead
A staple of many sit down restaurants, the restaurant comment card is usually found in the receipt book that is given to patrons at the end of their meal. Restaurant management use this restaurant comment card to get feedback from their customers about the quality of food, atmosphere, and service that they received at the restaurant. It’s a great idea. The restaurant puts a few questions ranging from “how was your meal today?” to “would you return to our restaurant?” and sticks the hard paper stock inside the receipt book. Successful restaurant management and owners know that ignoring your customer’s complaints can cripple your restaurant’s reputation. For the longest time guest-friendly restaurants used a restaurant comment card to keep a pulse on their restaurant’s reputation and to keep their customer’s happy. In today’s day and age though, a restaurant comment card is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Don’t get me wrong though, it had less to do with the functionality of the cards and had more to do with restaurant management not using them correctly. Let’s dive in.
Why The Restaurant Comment Card Is Dead
Yelp killed it. UrbanSpoon killed it. Hell, even your local food blogger killed it. How did we let that happen? The first straw broke when restaurant management stopped caring about what the comment card actually said. Various reasons for this exist but mostly it had to do with the fact that keeping up with all the comments took way too much time. A less well-known and more sinister reason is that some restaurant management thought they knew better than their customers and it was the customer’s fault that they didn’t understand the restaurant’s “vision.” A more embarrassing reason is that in many cases restaurant management didn’t know how to act upon the problems found in the comment card. The last straw broke when customers realized that nobody in restaurant management was actually reading the comment cards anymore and that they were more than likely being trashed or stored away never to be seen again. Now we have the all the ingredients for the anti-comment card, websites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and other various review sites who flourished because they put a restaurant’s dirty laundry out in the open. Customers who feel they’ve had an unpleasant experience at a restaurant need an outlet. Originally that was the purpose of the comment card, it provided a way for customers to express how they felt and in many cases they hoped their comment would be acted upon.
So what happens when the cats out of the bag? Necessity is the mother of invention. Websites start sprouting up all over the internet, letting customers air out their least favorite restaurants and tarnishing the restaurant’s reputation in the process. There’s still a lot of controversy about how these review sites rank reviews and some even believe that their algorithms promote the bad reviews to the top. Either way, the review sites have become the new comment card. The main difference between the two is that comment card responses were never public, were easy to hide, and gave restaurants the opportunity to make things right without muddying up their reputation. These new age comment cards are public, thorough, and viral. With today’s research based customers, reviews can make or break a new restaurant. Heck, they are even baked into our smartphones. Ask Siri for directions to a restaurant and customers see the reviews automatically.
How to make the best use of your restaurant comment card
The comment card isn’t useless. Nor does it need to die. The insights that restaurant management can learn from a comment card are endless. The main difficulties are with restaurant comment cards are:
- Keeping track of all the comments
- Being able to easily respond to them
- Knowing how to act upon the comments that are negative
Here’s how to deal with it. These solutions should be more than attainable for small to medium size restaurants.
- At the end of the day, input all the comments from the comment card into a spreadsheet. If you don’t want to shell out the money for Microsoft Excel, use Google’s free Google Docs. Inputting all the comments into a spreadsheet on a daily basis shouldn’t take very long and will make the entire process easier to manage.
- Now that you have the most important information from the comment card stored in the spreadsheet like customer contact information, date, comment, etc, it should be easy to pull up the customer and respond to them. No more paper shuffling folks.
- This is the most important part. Nobody is perfect and in this industry you’ll always have disgruntled and unhappy patrons. Some of their gripes are legitimate and some are not, it’s up to the restaurant management to use their own discretion when deciding between the two. WaiterPop’s rule of thumb is always this. If you wouldn’t want the comment on the card to end up on a review site, respond do it. With all that being said, acting upon the myriad of comments that come through can be difficult. The best thing to do is create a new column in the spreadsheet that can help you filter out the different types of comments. We’ll call this column “comment category.” Some are about food, some will be about atmosphere, and many will be about service. Assigning a comment category will make it easier to see your most common type of comment. With your comments inputted and sorted, it’s time to come up with a response action plan. Create a new column called “response” and come up with creative but affordable ways to placate the disgruntled customer. By coming up with a standard response list to the customer comments, restaurant management should be able to communicate with customers quicker and more efficiently.
Reigning in your restaurant comment card
“What’s dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.” ~ Game of Thrones
Put your restaurant comment card to work and get the most value from it. If done right, a well oiled comment card response system can prevent those nasty online reviews and help bolster customer loyalty. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, doesn’t take a lot of time, and is a homegrown way of improving your restaurant’s reputation.